Ahmadinejad Warns Karzai against an Afghan-Based US Strike on Iran
Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad went to Kabul Wednesday, March 10 on three errands – two demonstrative and one substantive:
1. He needed to demonstrate Iran was still a potent player in the affairs of the region's countries, notwithstanding the reverse suffered by the pro-Iranian alliance in Iraq's general election. It was his intention to show that the Iraqi setback was an isolated episode.
(More about Iraq's election results in HOT POINTS below.)
2. He wanted to emphasize that Tehran does not need to ask Washington for permission to take a hand in the affairs of Afghanistan or Iraq; Iran's regional standing is solid enough for independent action.
3. He decided to warn Afghan President Hamid Karzai against letting the Americans use their Afghan bases to attack Iran's nuclear facilities.
This possibility has got Iranian leaders deeply worried.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Iranian and intelligence sources report Tehran is anxiously tracking the US troop build-up in western Afghanistan, concentrated at the big air and military bases near Herat, not far from the Iranian border. The Iranian president told Karzai he cannot understand why special forces from the US 82nd Airborne Division and Air Force units are massed so close to the Iranian border in western Afghanistan, when the main coalition war thrust is going forward in the south.
The pile-up of US forces in the West was even more puzzling, he found, in view of the fact that the southern town of Kandahar has been prescribed as the next US-led battle arena.
Tehran believes US is only pretending to restrain Israel…
The Iranian and Afghan presidents are both fluent in the Farsi language and could therefore speak tête-à-tête without interpreters.
Ahmadinejad's questions were largely rhetorical. He did not expect answers from Karzai, knowing that the Afghan president does not make the decisions on how to deploy US troops in his country – or even always know about international military movements. But, in the interests of regional politics – and with an eye on Pakistan and India too – Tehran chose to go on record as warning President Karzai that any US military action against Iran from Afghan soil would meet with an Iranian reprisal powerful enough to shake the Karzai government off its perch.
The Iranian president told his Afghan host that a similar warning would be posted to Baghdad. The new Iraqi government would be warned after it is installed that Iran would have zero tolerance for an American attack staged from Iraqi soil.
From the content and tone of the Ahmadinejad-Karzai conversation in Kabul, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's sources learned that Iran does not believe the Obama administration is sincere in its efforts to engage internal elements in diplomacy or in its moves to hold Israel back from attacking its nuclear sites. Iran fears these activities are just camouflage to obscure active American preparations for a strike.
The Iranians eye with mistrust the heavy traffic of American official visitors to Israel, including even Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint US Chiefs of Staff, and the frequent travel of top Israeli defense brass to Washington. Iranian intelligence analysts don't buy the proposition that this activity is designed to restrain Israel and estimate that it is devoted to intense work for aligning US and Israeli military plans.
The Iranians are trying to sort out the date of this attack and find out which forces will take part, while wondering how well US and Israeli militaries mesh in the prospective operation.
Their skepticism may be genuine, but at the same time, Ahmadinejad understands the value of drumming up a threat by an outside enemy for uniting a nation behind its government. This is not a card he will pass up in his campaign to suppress every last dissident voice.